Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hearn, William Edward

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HEARN, WILLIAM EDWARD, LL.D. (1826–1888), legal and economical writer, born, 22 April 1826, at Belturbet, co. Cavan, was son of the vicar of Killague in the same county. He was educated at the royal school at Enniskillen and Trinity College, Dublin, where he was first senior moderator in classics and first junior moderator in logic and ethics. After being professor of Greek in Queen's College, Galway, from 1849 to 1854, he was in the latter year nominated as the first professor of modern history, modern literature, logic, and political economy in the new university of Melbourne. He was called to the Irish bar in 1853, and to the bar of Victoria in 1860. On the reorganisation of the school of law in 1873 he resigned his professorship and became dean of the faculty of law, and from May to October 1886 was chancellor of the university. In 1878 he was elected to represent the central province of Victoria in the legislative council. While in parliament his energies were mainly devoted to codification of the law. In 1879 he introduced the Duties of the People Bill, a code of criminal law; in 1881 the Law of Obligations Bill, a code of duties and rights as between subject and subject; in 1884 the Substantive General Law Consolidation Bill. All these bills were in 1887 referred to a joint select committee of both houses for report, and their adoption was recommended, but owing to Hearn's ill-health they were dropped for the time. Hearn was a member of the church of England, and as a layman took a prominent part in the working of the diocese of Melbourne. In 1886 he was appointed Q.C. He died 23 April 1888.

Hearn wrote:

  1. ‘The Cassell Prize Essay on the Condition of Ireland,’ London, 1851.
  2. ‘Plutology, or the Theory of the Efforts to satisfy Human Wants,’ 1864.
  3. ‘The Government of England, its Structure and its Development,’ 1867; 2nd edit. 1887; an important and valuable work, which is referred to by Mr. Herbert Spencer as one of those which have helped to graft the theory of evolution on history.
  4. ‘The Aryan Household, its Structure and its Development; an Introduction to Comparative Jurisprudence,’ 1879; his most important work, which, in the author's words, was intended ‘to describe the rise and the progress of the principal institutions that are common to the nations of the Aryan stock.’
  5. ‘Payment by Results in Primary Education,’ 1872.
  6. ‘The Theory of Legal Rights and Duties; an Introduction to Analytical Jurisprudence,’ 1885.

Hearn also made some brilliant contributions to the local press.

[A very full obituary notice is contained in the Australasian of 28 April 1888; Athenæum, 28 April 1888; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

J. W-s.